Ichiko Hashimoto – Mood Music, 1987

Odd that this is my first Ichiko Hashimoto post, given how much I admire her work–though her catalogue covers so much ground that it’s hard to know quite where to start. A trained jazz pianist, composer, and singer, Hashimoto was one half of Colored Music (friendly reminder that this record is so great), made a slew of ambitious solo records, performed with YMO, collaborated with Belladonna of Sadness composer Masahiko Sato, and scored an anime series, all while establishing herself as an powerful and singular composer, arranger, and producer. Though she’s worked across many genres, she’s maintained a signature proclivity towards gently sinister and avant-garde arrangements, and lugubriouis, pillowy vocals (her love of chanson-style singing pops up all over her discography, not just here).

Mood Music might not be her most canonical record, but it’s a personal favorite and has been on repeat recently. Comprised mostly of jazz standards, the record cribs heavily from bossa nova, samba, and exotica, but Hashimoto quietly subverts these textures into something darker, and at times, less familiar. Her quavering, syrupy-swoony orchestration suggests a Scott Walker-esque approach to sentimentality, particularly on thick and headier arrangements like “Poinciana” and “Night and Day.” The record’s two original compositions, “Flower” and “Île De Étrange,” are its most interesting, with the former a white-knuckled, percussionless tower of taut-string urgency, and the latter a hypnagogic, dubby piece of acid jazz. Mood music indeed.

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Quarteto em Cy – Quarteto em Cy, 1964

Originally comprised of four sisters from Bahia (Cybele, Cylene, Cynara, and Cyva; their real names), Quarteto em Cy has been enormously prolific and has also undergone many lineup changes over the years. I’ve been unsure which record of theirs to begin with since this blog started, so I’ve decided to start at the beginning and share their debut (and also their first of maybe five self-titled records), from what Brazilian music snobs consider to be their golden period (although they weren’t signed to the legendary Elenco label until 1966).

Swooning vocal harmonies delivered with expressive precision and set over meandering jazz and bossa textures. No reason not to be listening to this today.

Bola Sete – Ocean, 1975

Swooning solo guitar. Sete’s fingerpicking is some of the best ever, and this release catches him at a particularly special moment: his samba, bossa nova, and jazz roots are out in full effect, but this was his first release on John Fahey’s label Takoma, and Fahey’s influence shows. Ocean dabbles in folk (seemingly from multiple traditions) and has that same expansiveness that marks much of Fahey’s work—music that, at the risk of sounding trite, seems to slip outside of time.

Side note: for those in New York, I’ll be doing a guest set of Japanese pop heavy hitters with Evan Neuhausen on WNYU (89.1 FM) tonight at 7:30. Spoiler alert: there will be bird sounds.

[Mix for NTS Radio] Getting Warmer Episode 6

Listen to my sixth episode of Getting Warmer for NTS Radio below. I thought a lot about musical migration as I was making this: cross-pollination as a result of colonialism; exotic fantasy, escapism, and essentialism; and Brazil, both as a place of origin and as a source of inspiration. If you like it, you can download an mp3 version of it here. Enjoy!

Tracklisting:
1. Carpenters – Invocation
2. Fé De Sábio – Crepúsculo
3. Isabelle Antena – Otra Bebera
4. Yellow Magic Orchestra – Shadows On The Ground
5. The Beach Boys – Til I Die (Alternate Mix)
6. Caetano Veloso – Gua
7. Mudd – Summer In The Wood
8. Orchestre Raymond Droz Avec Pierre Cavalli Et Son Orchestre – Passarinhos
9. Light House – 南太平洋
10. The Coconuts – If I Only Had A Brain
11. Googoosh – Sahel Va Darya
12. Brenda Ray – Another Dream
13. Miharu Koshi – 逃亡者
14. Nightingales Recorded by Jean C. Roché – In A Waste Ground Beside A Stream In Provence, June
15. Mariko Fuji – 雪
16. Aaliyah – At Your Best
17. Mike Oldfield – Into Wonderland

Isabelle Antena – En Cavale, 1986

The best. Cheeky, punchy, synthy bossa-pop (or electro-samba, depending on who you ask). Production by Alan Moulder (Loveless, Siamese Dream, The Downward Spiral, Korn, casual) and Martin Hayles (Orange Juice’s Rip It Up, also casual). Instant gratification in a big way. Six songs written by Antena, plus a cover of Sister Sledge’s “Easy Street.” You might also recognize “Seaside Weekend” as a rework of a track she had originally done with her band, Antena. For fans of Antena, Sade, Linda Di Franco. Pleased to boast that I grew up listening to Isabelle Antena—my dad heard the maddening “Quand Le Jazz Entre En Lice” in a hair salon in Tokyo, where my family was living at the time, and took it home to my mom, who got hooked on it. Enjoy!

Linda Di Franco – Rise Of The Heart, 1986

Slinky, balearic perfection from Linda Di Franco, who was a DJ in the Turin underground circuit (a scene about which I know absolutely nothing) before releasing Rise Of The Heart, her only full-length. Hard to pick a favorite track, but the unbelievably hard-hitting “TV Scene” has been stuck in my head for years. Her blissed out, bossa-tinged cover of Dusty Springfield’s “The Look of Love” is a peak, as is the tropical jazz anthem “My Boss” (which, oddly, was released in Italy as a 7″ split with Rod Stewart’s “Love Touch”). This isn’t a great quality rip, but it’s the best I could find as the record is way out of print. If anyone has a better copy they’d like to share, let me know! For fans of Antena, Brenda Ray, Sade, and Gina X Performance.

Vinicius Cantuária – Sol Na Cara, 1996

Wow! A favorite from the legendary Vinicius Cantuária. Sol Na Cara happened a few years after he moved from Rio to New York, and with it he helped usher in a slick new breed of electronically tinged “post-bossa.” Unlike so many of its less elegant peers, Sol Na Cara is subtle, sinuous, and never falls victim to the desperation of two-dimensional Starbucks flab. Even when Cantuária flirts with kitsch, as in the synth-squiggled title track, he’s too much of an aesthete to let his collaborators lead him astray from beauty. Oh, and about those collaborators: arranged by Ryuichi Sakamoto, co-produced by Arto Lindsay, who mixed it at Kampo Cultural Centre, a studio owned by a Japanese master of calligraphy; with songs co-written by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Caetano Veloso, and Chico Buarque, in addition to Sakamoto, Lindsay, and Cantuária himself, this is a dream team lineup, but the numbers don’t cloud Cantuária’s singularly beautiful vision. Lazy late summer perfection.

Arto Lindsay – Noon Chill, 1997

Arto Lindsay made a name for himself as a founding father of the New York no wave scene with his project DNA. He went on to work with the Lounge Lizards, Ambitious Lovers, and the Golden Palominos before producing a slew of solo records. Though American, Lindsay’s parents were missionaries and he spent his teenage years in Brazil at the height of the tropicália movement. This Brazilian influence emerged more and more throughout his 40 year long career, spawning a trilogy of records dense with Brazilian sound: O Corpo Sutil (1996), Mundo Civilizado (1996), and finally, Noon Chill. Lindsay has also done production work for Caetano Veloso, Tom Zé, Gal Costa, Vinicius Cantuária, and Carlinhos Brown, to name a few. (Side note: he’s also responsible for the weirdest/best cover ever of Prince’s “Erotic City.”)
Noon Chill sounds like a well-intentioned poolside afternoon gone on a codeine bender. Most of the songs are bossa nova at heart, but they continuously slip down dark, trip-hoppy rabbit holes and spiral off into ominous drum and bass riffs. It’s like Tanto Tempo‘s sinister older brother. Combined with Lindsay’s trademark disinterested vocals and lyrics like “I do love your lack of all expression/I find it not at all distressing,” you can’t help but see Noon Chill through heavy eyelids.

Antena – Camino del Sol, 1982

Synthy tropical lounge pop bliss, with plenty of icy space for good measure. Camino del Sol was originally a 5-track 12″, was later expanded into an LP by the wonderful Belgian label Les Disques du Crépuscule, and then reissued with some unreleased material by the also wonderful Numero Group in 2004. Their take on “The Girl From Ipanema” is killer, but by no means the standout. If you’re a fan of music, you’ll like this. Spiky, shimmering, John Foxx-produced (!) “Spiral Staircase” preview in all its cheeky brevity below.

Milton Nascimento & Lô Borges – Clube da Esquina, 1972

21 tracks written and performed by members of the highly influential musicians’ collective Clube da Esquina. This record gained a massive following in Brazil, but doesn’t get enough love in the states in favor of tropicália and bossa nova. It’s a complicated record, effectively a patchwork of moods and styles; and it’s experimental and volatile to the core, evading traditional song structures (and even traditional song lengths). “Saídas e Bandeiras Nº 1” is 43 seconds of sunny, psychy guitar-pop, ending abruptly only to be picked up 11 tracks later…for a minute and a half. “Dos Cruces” is five and a half minutes of meandering, drum-studded ache, winding up to a paltry 45 seconds of blistering chorus, overjoyed to have finally arrived, only to be cut off there, too. Always leaves you wanting more. Check out the string interlude halfway through “Um Girassol da Cor de Seu Cabelo” for some Xenakis steeze, or “Pelo Amor de Deus” for wild organ glissandos. I found myself sobbing on the M train listening to “San Vicente” the other day. I think Lô Borges was like 19 when they recorded this thing. It’s a crazy ride.